A West Australian drone pilot believes a new compulsory test to assess drone users’ knowledge of air safety rules is a “proactive step” to promote responsible flying among recreational pilots.
Flying Dingo drone pilot Alex Ringis said the compulsory quiz by the largest drone maker DJI in conjunction with Australia’s Civil Aviation and Safety Authority (CASA) for DJI drone pilots, would make sure users understood the rules before take-off.
“This is a move from CASA with the support of DJI, the market leader in the drone business, to ensure compliance from civilian drone pilots and casual hobbyist users,” Mr Ringis said.
“I think this is a sensible step in between to try and gently coax people into doing the right thing.”
Mr Ringis said the app was a good way to ensure recreational drone pilots actively made sure they knew the rules.
“A small percentage of them do the wrong thing are actually making it worse for everyone else,” he said.
“This is a more proactive step to get people to actively at the very least try to research the answers to the questions.”
He said new drones contained a leaflet from CASA covering the basic air safety rules for drone pilots, but users were less likely to pay attention to it.
“Obviously when people go and open a new product, they just throw all the paperwork away,” Mr Ringis said.
The test is embedded into the DJI Go or Go 4 app and requires pilots of DJI drones to correctly answer all nine questions before being able to fly their drone.
It only applies to DJI drone users though, leaving out drone users who do not own a drone by the brand.
“It only affects people piloting DJI,” Mr Ringis said.
“That does leave, I don’t know the exact figures but probably up to 15 to 20 per cent of the market.”
However, he said though many of the remaining owners flew “small hobby toy drones which don’t necessarily use smartphone software.”
It came after 32 Australian drone users were issued fines and hundreds more received written safety notices for flying their drones unsafely in 2017.
CASA spokesman Peter Gibson said there were “serious potential risks” drone users needed to be aware of.
“You’re sharing the skies with aircraft and that means there could be a mid-air collision if you’re not careful. And a mid-air collision with a helicopter for example could be catastrophic,” Mr Gibson said.
“There are also risks to people on the ground. Drones, if they hit somebody incidentally cause cuts and bruises, you could lose an eye, lose a finger if you’re unlucky.”
He said CASA would continue to issue fines and warnings if there was evidence of people breaking the air safety rules.
“The safety rules are in the Civil Aviation and Safety regulations, they’re official government regulations,” Mr Gibson said.
“There are penalties for breaching the rules, the fines can be more than $10,000.”
Mr Ringis said recreational pilots needed to take safety precautions before take-off.
“Individual drone users at a recreational level should at the very least take the step of downloading CASA’s Can I Fly There App and use it anytime they fly their drone,” he said.
“That to me would be the basic standard of safety at the very least.”